Hyperkin Admiral Premium BT Controller

A couple months ago, I decided to order a couple replacement joysticks for two of my Nintendo 64 controllers. The control sticks in Nintendo’s iconic(?) three-pronged controllers have a tendency to lose most of their integrity and end up either too loose, making any remotely precise movement near impossible or restricting any freedom of movement as they get stiff from an accumulation of dust and dirt. As I mentioned in a subsequent blog post, I found a couple replacement joysticks on Amazon which were designed closer to that of the GameCube controllers and feel much smoother. The new control sticks felt pretty good and I was pretty happy with the way they turned out. I spent a little while testing the controllers out after the joystick replacements, but it wasn’t until a few weeks later that I noticed there was a little bit of a dead zone which means subtle movements in games like Perfect Dark or Rogue Squadron are near impossible as you have to push the joystick further before registering any movement in-game due to the dead zone directly in the center of the control stick. This is something I was fully aware of when buying the replacement sticks, as a few of the reviews had mentioned the possibility of dead zones…

One random afternoon, I decided to take a look online at some third-party N64 controllers and I came across the Hyperkin models. I ordered one of the Hyperkin “Duke” Xbox controllers last summer and really liked it; it’s actually turned into my main controller when playing games on my PC(non-FPS or point-and-click ones at least). After a little bit more research, I finally decided to try out the Admiral Premium BT Controller in atomic….um, Amethyst Purple. I still have my atomic purple controller that was packed-in with my N64 and have always had a fondness for the entire Funtastic Color series of translucent consoles and controllers, so I was pretty excited to see Hyperkin offered an equivalent to nearly every color offered by Nintendo back then, plus a few other unique ones.

The Controller

A few details about the controller(via the Hyperkin site)

• Wireless connectivity up to 30 ft. via included BT dongle

• Compatible with all N64® models, as well as PC, Mac® and Android® via BT

• Built-in lithium-ion battery lasts for 6 hours of gameplay and recharges via an included Micro cable

• Compatible with original game memory cards, third-party game memory cards, and standard storage memory cards

• Insert a storage memory card (not included) into the designated slot on the dongle

• Back up or transfer your game memory card save data

Growing up during the days of very…inconsistent quality of third-party controllers, especially Nintendo ones, I was cautiously optimistic, but my previous experiences with Hyperkin products provided a little more assurance. The controller performs much better than the old Mad Catz or cheaper Logitech ones I remember using during the N64/GameCube days. I *could* take this opportunity to mention the perception in Nintendo’s first-party controllers from years ago vs. the widespread Joy-Con issues today….but that’s another lengthy post for another day.

The Admiral BT doesn’t even look all that much like an N64 controller at first glance as it incorporates a more traditional two-handed design over Nintendo’s infamous oddball control pad. Instead of a third handle on the controller, Hyperkin moved the control stick over to the left side above the d-pad and has moved the Z Button to a left AND right shoulder position. This makes the controller’s form feel very much like the Switch Pro Controller. Of course, there remains just a single joystick, which meant I had to adjust to using the four C Buttons to assist in aiming the reticle while playing Perfect Dark. One could almost look at the Admiral as a design somewhere between evolutionary stages of Nintendo controllers….

Another thing I noticed about the controller(I guess my two Hyperkin controllers are the Duke and the Admiral?) is its very, very light weight; after being used to the more-substantial weight of modern-day controllers like the Dualshock 4 or the Xbox One Wireless, this controller is feather light. I compared it against one of my other N64 controllers and it isn’t too much of a weight difference, indicating how much today’s standard rumble features typical add to a controller’s heaviness.

The wireless dongle for the controller is a lot bigger than I had anticipated, but was pleasantly surprised to see that you can insert a memory card….or Control Pak and use the SD card slot to transfer your save data. I mean, I COULD do that if any game data I saved hadn’t been corrupted and erased years ago(totally NOT a bitter comment). If I ever get back to playing Buck Bumble or Beetle Adventure Racing, I can now save my data without as much worry.

Synching up the controller via Bluetooth was pretty simple, as it should be, and within moments I was able to play some Star Fox 64. I adjusted pretty quickly to the controller and it wasn’t long after that I had hardly noticed I wasn’t using one of the three-handed first-party ones.

What about any dead zones in the joystick? The control stick on the controller feels near identical to the replacement GameCube ones I installed into my other controllers, but, I was very pleased to play Star Fox and Perfect Dark without any noticeable dead zone right in the center of the joystick. My purchase completely justified right there….

After spending the weekend testing out the controller, there really isn’t much that I dislike about it. It works exactly as I’d hoped. My only minor issue was the fact that the Z Button has been adjusted to both shoulders of the controller and found myself fighting my own muscle memory a little bit. I stated above how similar the controller feels to the Switch Pro Controller, which meant I instinctively press the “ZL Button” to aim in Perfect Dark, but quickly remembered once Joanna randomly fires a shot in the vicinity of a previously-unsuspecting DataDyne guard, that it’s the R Button to stop and take aim. A very minor thing, but I don’t really have much else…the controller functions pretty damn well.

The Admiral BT Premium may not appeal to those looking for more of a direct substitute for an N64 controller, particularly in shooter games(not that there was many on the console) where the Z Button underneath the middle handle gave players the feeling closer to that of holding a weapon. For those looking for a more traditional replacement, Hyperkin does make the Captain Premium controllers, which are not wireless, but still resemble the shape of a Poseidon’s trident like the original Nintendo ones.

All in all, I’m pretty satisfied with the Admiral BT and being able to lie in bed and play Mario Kart 64 is definitely nice. Maybe some Ocarina of Time or Donkey Kong 64 next?

Thanks for reading!

Review – Hyperkin Duke Xbox/PC Controller

For my most recent impulse buy, I purchased one of the Hyperkin “Duke” Xbox controllers on Amazon. I had been looking for another controller that I could use for a few games here and there on pc that I’d prefer to use a controller over mouse and keyboard, as well as a backup for when the AA batteries are drained from the few hours of use in my Xbox One X controllers. It’s all too perfect of a coincidence that I should decide to write up a few of my thoughts about it. For those unfamiliar, the first iterations of the Xbox controllers were gargantuan beasts, typically mocked for their sheer size and lack of ergonomic design in comparison to the Playstation 2’s Dualshock and Nintendo Gamecube controllers. The “Duke” as it was nicknamed, was discontinued and replaced with the more reasonably-sized Xbox Controller S, which led to the evolution of the Xbox 360 and Xbox One controllers. I remember renting an Xbox and a few games, including Halo, shortly after its November 2001 release and being both amused and confused about what to make of such a cumbersome controller. I did, however, come to quite enjoy the feeling of the hefty gamepad for a number of games, primarily shooters like Halo which lent themselves well to the twin triggers underneath. A few years ago that Hyperkin was going to be releasing an official reproduction of the Duke, I absolutely wanted to get a chance to check one of these out for myself. I spent about seven or so hours over the weekend using the controller to play some Halo on my Xbox One as well as playing a few other games on pc. Here’s what I thought thus far…

Pros:

  • A very nice repro of the original Xbox controller, it feels near identical to the original. The button placement is the same as the original, with just a few minor adjustments. First, a left and right shoulder button have been added to the controller. This is a definite improvement over the original version which utilized both a Black and White button along with the A, B, X, and Y face buttons; the Hyperkin version still has the Black/White buttons, giving you the option to use them or the shoulder buttons. The shoulder buttons are a little on the small-ish side, but still function perfectly fine as I was using the right shoulder button to dash while streaming Gato Roboto over the weekend. The buttons and dual underside triggers feel nice and responsive with a little bit of a “click-y” feel similar to arcade fight pads. A 35mm headphone jack is one of my most appreciated details in a controller; I was very pleased the Hyperkin Duke has a built-in headphone jack as I likely spend the majority of my time playing with a headset on.
  • One of my favorite details of the Hyperkin Duke is when plugged in, the plastic button in the center of the controller will light up with the startup logo one would see on the original Xbox. This isn’t a make-or-break feature for the controller but…it’s still a pretty cool reminder of all the good times playing games like Halo, Fable, and Knights of the Old Republic.

Cons:

  • Horses for courses. The shoulder buttons I mentioned work well, but I will admit they are a little on the small side due to the shape of the control and may not be the easiest to reach. Games that require a good deal of button dexterity, such as Jedi: Fallen Order or any Dark Souls game that has your primary attack/block buttons defaulted to shoulder buttons and not triggers, this may not be the ideal controller to wield. Also, in sticking to the original Duke controller as closely as possible, the Hyperkin version features the same d-pad, which I have never been the biggest fan of. It doesn’t feel quite as “mushy” as the d-pad on the Switch Pro Controller, but still not quite as precise as its later evolutions in Xbox controllers.
  • Not a con for myself, per se, but the Hyperkin Duke is not likely the ideal controller for anyone with small-to-medium sized hands. I have large hands and don’t have any issues with things like cramping or strain after prolonged use, but there is a reason the humongous design was replaced with something a little more ergonomic. I do also remember the original Duke being just a little bit heavier, so you really felt the power of this behemoth in your hands.
Xbox One X controller(left) to show size difference.

Do I recommend this controller to everyone? No. The Hyperkin Duke is an excellent repro of the infamous controller design, but it’s hard to fully recommend it to anyone who never used one on the original Xbox, especially when it costs the same as a brand new Xbox One X wireless controller. If you’re looking for a cool piece of gaming nostalgia that’s perfectly functional for modern games, I can vouch for its quality and feel. I remember the days of 3rd-party controllers being a bit of a gamble, the true litmus test of one’s friendship as a kid was whether or not you were handed a Mad Katz N64 controller when playing. Gaming magazines jokingly referred to the original controller feeling as though you were “holding a canned ham”, but the Hyperkin Duke is exactly what I was expecting and delivers the feel of the original – a baseball bat with a joystick and trigger for each hand and I am completely on board with that.